Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
2005 Newbery Medal Winner
Main Characters: Katie and Lynn Takeshima
Setting: Move from Iowa to Georgia
Time Period: 1950'-60's?
Plot: Katie’s coming-of-age in rural Georgia, where her Japanese heritage makes her family a target of discrimination, faces financial hardship when sister Lynn becomes bedridden w/ cancer.
Kira-kira is the first Japanese word Katie Takeshima learns as a baby. Translated it means "glittering," but our young heroine Katie constantly misuses it for cars, pets, houses, butterflies, and colored Kleenex. Older sister Lynn clarifies the meaning as a type of see through shimmer more associated with clear-blue eyes, babbling creeks, and translucent Iowan skies.
This is Katie’s first memory before the Japanese-American family is uprooted to rural Georgia. In search of the American dream, they begin working in separate chicken factories owned by mean, Mr. Lyndon. As a chicken "sexer," father becomes known for his accuracy and speed. Mother spends her time, and any extra, as a chicken "slicer."
Now the plot thickens, as Lynn becomes sick, and the family struggles to make ends met. Girls may find this book a bonding experience as kira-kira (colored Kleenexes) will be in use.